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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Life On Mars? And Thus Across The Universe? Is That Worth Knowing? - Not According To Our Rulers

meteorite_mars structures and compositional features within the a 30-pound (13.7-kilogram) Yamato meteorite suggest biological processes might have been at work on Mars hundreds of millions of years ago.

Analyses found that the rock was formed about 1.3 billion years ago from a lava flow on Mars. Around 12 million years ago, an impact occurred on Mars that ejected the meteorite from the surface of Mars. The meteorite traveled through space until it fell in Antarctica about 50,000 years ago.
The team found two distinctive sets of features associated with Martian-derived clay. They found tunnel and micro-tunnel structures that thread their way throughout Yamato 000593. The observed micro-tunnels display curved, undulating shapes consistent with bio-alteration textures observed in terrestrial basaltic glasses, previously reported by researchers who study interactions of bacteria with basaltic materials on Earth.

The second set of features consists of nanometer- to-micrometer-sized spherules that are sandwiched between layers within the rock and are distinct from carbonate and the underlying silicate layer.

Similar spherical features have been previously seen in the Martian meteorite Nakhla that fell in 1911 in Egypt. Composition measurements of the Y000593 spherules show that they are significantly enriched in carbon compared to the nearby surrounding iddingsite layers.

A striking observation is that these two sets of features in Y000593, recovered from Antarctica after about 50,000 years residence time, are similar to features found in Nakhla, an observed fall collected shortly after landing.

The authors note that they cannot exclude the possibility that the carbon-rich regions in both sets of features may be the product of abiotic (non-life) mechanisms: however, textural and compositional similarities to features in terrestrial samples, which have been interpreted as biogenic, imply the intriguing possibility that the Martian features were formed by biotic activity.

“This is no smoking gun,” said JPL’s White. “We can never eliminate the possibility of contamination in any meteorite. But these features are nonetheless interesting and show that further studies of these meteorites should continue.”

    Indeed not a smoking gun but another in a lengthening series of meteors originating on Mars that show formations that could be life and for which no other explanation holds water.

   Also the similarity with the Antarctica meteor found shortly after landing supports both. If some life process on Earth (or any other process) was causing this then the size of the effect would be expected to be much greater in the current sample than the previous one:

      Effect X 50,000 years = Effect X "shortly after landing" 
             works only when Effect = 0

     It is possible to believe life is unique to this planet. It is not possible to believe it is unique to the first 2 planets we know. If life exists, or existed on Mars it is almost certainly common across the universe. Theoretically it could have formed once in our solar system and not survived any trip on a comet or moved by light pressure to another system but I do not believe that EVERY bacterium on that journey would have failed to survive and once you accept it happening once a geometric expansion is inevitable.

     And if that isn't important enough to spend a few billions on pure research then I cannot think of anything that ever would be and we should settle down to the advantages of living like pigs in muck.

    I have previously here and here and here, oh and here written on this, particularly with regard to life on asteroids, comets and open space but Mars looks like the best place to look.

    Finding life on Mars was the objective of the Beagle 2 probe in w2003 (cost £44 million, half paid by non-government donations). It failed like 19 of all 38 probes sent to Mars.

   Despite failing it had proven immensely successful with the people and Colin Pillinger proposed to send 2 more in 2009 - this was the Beagle 3 proposal. Since all the development work had been done this would be cheaper than the original.

   Naturally Parliament stepped in and ran an enquiry so that the MPs, with their deep scientific knowledge, could tell him where he went wrong. They and ESA agreed they should take over and, devote £200 million to a successor to ensure it worked and not sending anything until they were sure it could be done successfully. Still waiting.


   Perhaps it is time, or more than time, to try again. With launch costs dropping and SpaceX existing to put Elon Musk on Mars before he dies (and also produce a spacegoing civilisation) and with the normal reduction in costs of cutting edge technology I suspect it could be done now for no more than half the original cost (correcting for inflation). That matches the commercial donors who paid for the original. Or smaller governments like those of Singapore or Abu Dhabi.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Taking On The Big Government Sock Puppets - A Qango Against Sock Puppetry

   How much does government spend on advertising?  I'm afraid this is going to contain a lot of guesstimates. The money comes a whole range of departments and much of it is hidden under other names (such as contracts for publications and fees for courses) and of course, it is a subject the media imply do not mention as googling "sock puppets" shows.

    So lets take this from Chris Snowden's report I have previously discussed:

"Between 1997 and 2005, the combined income of Britain’s charities nearly doubled, from £19.8 billion to £37.9 billion, with the biggest growth coming in grants and contracts from government departments ...state funding rose by 38 per cent in the first years of the twenty-first century while private donations rose by just seven per cent."

    That is rather equivocal since a doubling of income cannot be made up of a "biggest growth" which was only by 38%. I have to assume that the 38% rise was not for the entire 1997-2005 period and will ignore it.

   So the "biggest growth" (ie more than half - I'm going to assume 60%) was government [60%(£37.9bn - £19.8bn) = £10.9bn].

  If that had been 38% of the initial government donation would have been £25bn, more than the total received. Lets assume that over 1997-2005 total government charitable spending doubled ie £21.8bn.

  Assuming 4% average growth since then (it must have been higher under profligate Brown but I see little sign the coalition are the sort who would have ended it. That make it [ £21.8 x 1.04^9 = ] £31 bn.

   But government spends a lot in advertising in its own name. I once saw advice for councils wanting to save money that they should not have more press officers than the local press have journalists and I doubt Whitehall is more parsimonious.

   So we can multiply the total by 3 but then I am going to assume that some of the government funding is actually for conventional charitable purposes and let the multiplier be 2.

  So that gives us an estimate of government advertising coming to £62 bn. Not set in stone but I would be surprised if it were more than 50% out either way and I certainly don't think my estimates have been unreasonably high.

  Note that that is more than half the national deficit. Note also that it is just over 8% of  all government expenditure which you will see compares with what industry does.

   There is also EU sock puppet funding, particularly (up to 70% for all the big "environmental" charities) but considering what the UK pays the EU it I doubt such charities here could be getting
more than an extra billion.


  OK, where am I going.

  Well this money goes to advertising the ruling political parties like. When UKIP comes to power, or, particularly in Scotland's case, is part of a power sharing parliament, we are entitled to demand a share.

   I wouldn't insist on us getting a proportional share (app 20% in UK 10% in Scotland) since I would very much like to see most of this paid totalitarian scaremongering stopped.

   Scotland's share of that £62 bn, on population is £5.27 billion. Actually Scotland is stuffed with subsidy junkie qangos and sock puppets so it must be higher than that on the other hand this is probably matched by Westminster being directly responsible some of it.

   Say we insist on 1% of that going to UKIP friendly charities - 1% is highly reasonable though £527 million is quite a lot.

   So what would that buy:

"As a general rule of thumb, companies should spend around 5 percent of their total revenue on marketing to maintain their current position. Companies looking to grow or gain greater market share should budget a higher percentage—usually around 10 percent."

   I would happily see a permanent fund on that basis set up specifically to advertise sorry raise awareness as it is called when government does it, that a lot of government or "environmental" scare stories are lies &/or giving the evidence that free markets work.

   That is the sort of budget that 5 £1bn companies would spend across the UK or 50 of them in Scotland. If spent with the sort of efficiency government tends to shy away from and bearing in mind that we are used to the normal scaremongering stuff.

    Also, out of this, I would like to see the organisation funding a series of debates on these themes as I have previously said should be a part of normal political dialogue. When I say "debate" I do mean it in the correct not the BBC sense - ie the scaremongers should get the same chance to speak as the sceptics do. People can tell when they are being scammed and a genuine debate would be both ethical and more persuasive.

    Of course it might prove impossible to find an alarmist willing to engage in a real debate. This happened recently when a warming alarmist pulled out of an RTE discussion when he found a sceptic (Benny Peiser) was going to be allowed to speak as well. To RTE's credit they went ahead without him - so completely different from the home life of our own dear state broadcaster. (Here for the next 19 days)

Some things the Quango For Truth and Progress should publicise:

  • Evidence that global warming isn't catastrophic
  • Evidence that nothing unusual is happening to temperature.
  • Evidence that CO2 is helping solve world hunger.
  • Evidence that nobody has ever been harmed by shale fracking, nor likely to be
  • Evidence  that nobody has been harmed by GM plants, nor likely to be.
  • Evidence that nuclear power is the safest form of power generation there is.
  • Evidence that nuclear power can be produced at 2% of current costs
  • Evidence that the Linear No Threshold (LNT) radioactivity assumption has not and never had any scientific basis.
  • Evidence of the correlation between economic freedom and growth.
  • Evidence of the correlation between cheap energy and growth.
  • That all the annual peak oil in a couple of years over the last 40 years have been false.
  • Evidence that all the dozens of other eco-scare stories we have had inflicted on us are equally false.
  • Evidence that the smoking ban hasn't saved the promised "1,000 lives a year", or indeed any and was never intended to.
  • Evidence that we have unlimited potential if we stop kowtowing to luddite scaremongering.
  What a wonderful world it would be if somebody in government actually had the official job of promoting the truth
   This is a comment I put on a blog about the need for something to introduce sanity to the nuclear "debate" which ultimately led to this post.

  "But what we really need is a rottweiller charity willing to go all out at anti-nuclear campaign. To sue anybody good cases of lies about the industry. To advertise that newspapers that give coverage to false scare stories and don’t give at least as much coverage to the truth (ie almost all of them) are, by definition, corrupt, lying, fascist scum who cannot be trusted to tell the truth on anything else.

   And that governments that give money to promote “environmental” issues, they approve of, are engaged in totalitarian fraud if they don’t give an equal amount to technology promoters – just as much as a Democrat (or Republican) Governor who gave money to his own party would be criminally liable.

   All of which unfortunately needs a bit of money to start it rolling."

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Newt on Minimum Wages

       This is from an article Newt Gingerich did recently.

    Not exactly an absolute correlation. Also one must make allowances for the variation in average national income - Greece & Portugal are less than half as well of as us so it is obvious minimum wage would have to be half as well (though this does rather make a nonsense of the theories that minimum wage laws either produce fairness or increase earnings. US minimums well below those of European states that they are richer than are also going to cause less interference in the market.

   In theory low minimum wages should do as little harm as no minimum wages because neither discourage people from paying the amounts of money real employers are willing to  pay.

   But overall there is a clear trend that those countries with no minimum wage laws, or with minimums, low compared to national income, have generally lower levels of unemployment.

   Who would have guessed?

  But it is better to have evidence. 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Malaysia Airline Disappearance - With Every Day That Passes

     The estimable Register provides this 3 page review of what may have happened to the Malay Airlines plane. It shows that the plane must be on or near a circle, centred on the satellite that recorded the engine signals. It runs from north of Afghanistan through Burma, omits Sumatra and Java, presumably because that has already been gone over and across the south Pacific. I initially thought it had landed in the Sumatra jungle and am still not certain  it hasn't. Otherwise the Golden Triangle area of Burma is a possibility though it would have had to cross Burmese airspace without notice. I don't think it could have come near Afghanistan without lighting up radars.

     But the odds increasingly look like it is at the bottom of the Indian ocean.

     The Register glosses over the evidence that it rose to 45,000 feet when it first went off course. That could be a cockpit fight but, if combined with deliberate depressurising of the passenger space. would, as the Mail says in this otherwise very good assessment that this could be to "knock out" the passengers.

     Or to kill them if maintained. Which would explain why they didn't get on their mobile phones.

     I'm afraid that is what happened. Meanwhile the captain's semi-estranged wife and family are still missing. Did they flee to somewhere where he could meet them after successfully pulling off the crime of the century or did he kill them first? It is unlikely they could still be in Malaysia unnoticed. Could they have gone abroad without passing a video camera or have they literally vanished from the face of the Earth?


    The Register also highlights the recent observations said to have confirmed what likely happened at the Big Bang.

    It also seems to confirm that we must list in an Everitt sort of multiverse.

What the BICEP2 experiment discovered is a polarisation – primordial B-mode polarisation – that it believes demonstrates the existence of an inflationary period in the universe. This inflation was predicted and explored by luminaries such as Alan Guth and Andrei Linde back in the 1980s.

If the BICEP2 results are correct – remembering that they're still to go through peer review – they would constitute the best observational evidence so far to support the inflationary model.

The reason BICEP2 implies inflation is that the polarisation is present fairly uniformly across the whole of the cosmic background radiation. In other words: whatever caused the polarisation represents sufficient energy to make the mathematics of cosmic inflation stack up.

And it was a tweet of a comment by Linde – that “If inflation is there, then the multiverse is there” – that captured The Register's interest.

As Dr Tucker explained, in the “generic inflation” model, in order to create enough energy and space for our universe to undergo that inflationary period, “you imply an infinite amount of energy and space.”

Even though our universe is big, “an infinite amount” of energy and space leaves a lot left over to be explained.

Hence the multiverse hypothesis: it balances the scales. The inflationary period, followed by a gravitational collapse into the universe we can observe, gives us the 13.8 billion years of universe history we can observe – leaving the excess energy and space beyond the reach of we inside the bubble.

“To get inflation, you have to have a vast amount of vacuum energy,” Dr Tucker explained.


I was wrong in believing his wife and family had disappeared. She did move out the day before, which may indicate a fight but went to her sister's. I had assumed the fact that our media didn't mention her meant they didn't know where she was.

It is now reported that satellite photos taken 4 days ago at t the southern tip of the range showed what may be large debris, probably a wing and most of another. That would mean the plane landed successfully on the sea. Being empty of fuel it is unsurprising that wings would float. However if you were going to rendezvous with somebody, equatorial waters, & somewhere you could reach well before the fuel ran out, would be infinitely safer than the storm lashed Antarctic Ocean so it still looks like a nasty way to commit suicide.


Jerry Pournelle broadly supports this assessment - that the plane was redirected to the nearest landing field and then the pilots overcome with smoke, from a burning wheel. Not sure but worth considering. If so I would expect the plane to have continued in the direction of its initial direction change and I get the impression there was a later redirection due south, but this impression may be wrong. Einstein said that an explanation should be as simple as possible to explain the evidence but no simpler and this may be it.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recent Reading

Strathclyde University is setting up a new space hub
EU election poll - UKIP 30%, Labour 28%, Tories 21%
I would expect us to do better as we get closer to the poll and the media have to at least occasionally mention us and also following the Farage/Clegg debate.
On the other hand 2% is within the margin of error of polls and we will certainly get less than this in Scotland.
Fewer people calling themselves "environmentalist" (well OK in the US)
Millennial generation least likely to call themselves environmentalists
The US doesn't have a manned space programme any more - this & the need to hitch on the Russians, may explain why they are only posturing over Crimea.
Mike Haseler has a new blog about UKIP in Scotland
Remember the IPCC's fraud about the Himalayas going to be melted by 2025 which got a lot of media coverage originally and relatively little when disproven. Well it seems that not only are they not melting the ice there is growing (like everywhere else). No media coverage.
Von Mises says the US transcontinental railway system built with active government assistance (not to mention a lot of bribery)  was not only a market distortion but a bad one. I don't agree but one should read things one disagrees with.
Lehman's has repaid 100% if its debts. That means it was never really insolvent.
Britain is "uninvestible" for energy. That is BAD. That does not mean just an "energy gap" of a few years when the lights go out.
A reminder from Prof Colin McInnes that, despite billions thrown at windmill subsidies, nuclear remains our largest electricity generator. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moral Relativism When Considering Megadeaths

   Jerry Pournelle listed this:

FYI from Wikipedia:
  • 1944 to 1948: Flight and expulsion of Germans after World War II. Between 13.5 and 16.5 million Germans were expelled, evacuated or fled from Central and Eastern Europe, making this the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing in recorded history. Estimated number of those who died in the process is being debated by historians and estimated between 500,000 and 3,000,000.[44]
  • November and December 1944: more than 200,000 Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia were expelled from their homes and interned in starvation and concentration camps for the old, young and disabled. Some 30,000 workers were expelled to Russia as slave laborers for war reparations.[45]
         Though I have long promoted more reporting of the atrocities "our side" & NATO police carried out in the wars against Yugoslavia, it is worth, for balance, remembering that atrocities get carried out by all sides.

        Though our schools and media airbrush these out of history.

         If you read up about the Danube Swabians they certainly did side with Hitler against their neighbours in the atrocities he committed. It is difficult to think of a way in which  locals, assuming they were not saintly, would not have expelled them. Nonetheless they should not be forgotten.

         Also worth noting the enormous dubiety about the number of death. This demonstrates one of the obscene things about genocide - since it is a crime that eliminates the witnesses, and even moreso, tends to eliminate those with an interest in the crimes being known, the numbers quoted in almost all such, owe more to politics than reality.

        This, of course, does not apply to the Jewish Holocaust where the number of 6 million is enforced by both historians and police as being certain. Though in earlier times figures between 3 & 11 million were common. This is fortunate for the western countries since they were able to justify WW2 as being against a uniquely barbaric regime without having to mention that the Germans killed 24 million Soviet citizens (something they would have had difficulty in denouncing as bad during the cold war when we were threatening to wipe out 200 million of them).


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